[FRIAM] Accelerating Change 2004 Conference at Stanford: brief summary

Randy Burge burge at proactive.to
Wed Nov 17 12:48:45 GMT+4 2004


There was an excellent conference on Accelerating Change held at Stanford
two weeks ago. My friend, Dewayne Hendricks, was one of the presenters. I
did not attend, but I had dinner with him shortly after the conference (I
was in the Bay Area for another conference).

Did any one in the FRIAM network go to the conference by chance? The
concepts are intriguing and relevant...


"Accelerating Change 2004 featured engaging interactive debates, a virtual
worlds workshop, a collective intelligence dinner, and several other
informative events and activities. Speakers emphasize a mix of analysis,
forecasting, and action plans and examples, using multidisciplinary inquiry
and a synthesis of technical, entrepreneurial, and social development

This year's themes, Physical Space, Virtual Space, and Interface, analyzed
the intersection of three monumental trends:

 Accelerating interconnectivity of the physical world
 Increasing accuracy of the simulated world
 Growing intelligence of the human-machine interface.

The following quote by one of the AC 2004 headliners captures the essence of
the applied complexity efforts/initiatives -- to provide confident and
viable ways for grasping and comprehending changes -- to apply, versus being
complacent or gloomy per the quote.

"There's a world to be saved and those who spread either complacency or
gloom aren't helping. What we need is confidence and a sense that our
efforts can matter. That will come, if we open our eyes to how much good has
already been done. Are we ready, at last, to stop ridiculing those eager,
can-do boys and girls (FRIAMers?) who believe in progress?" ‹ David Brin

Newsletter: Singularity Watch
Singularity Watch is dedicated to helping people to understand and better
manage accelerating change in the closing decades of the era of
non-intelligent machines. Its primary author is John Smart.

The organizer of Accelerating Change 2004 and the primary author of the
Singularity Watch newsletter, John Smart, is a developmental systems
theorist who studies science and technological culture with an emphasis on
accelerating change, computational autonomy and a topic known in futurist
circles as the technological singularity. He also president of the Institute
for the Study of Accelerating Change (ISAC, Accelerating.org) a nonprofit
community that seeks to help individuals better understand and manage
continuous accelerating change.
John Smart: Simulation, Agents, and Accelerating Change: Personality Capture
and the Linguistic User Interface

What is the Technological Singularity?

Earth's electronic systems have been self-organizing at the speed of light
since Faraday's time. Grossly, this generalized rate of evolutionary
development is at least seven million times faster than the speed of thought
in biological systems (the speed of an action potential and synaptic
diffusion in a human brain).

In an utterly surprising state of affairs, every new computing system over
the last century of technological development has managed to be consistently
more miniaturized, resource efficient (per standard computation, however
defined), more human autonomous (in the replication of its complexity, again
however defined) and more biologically-inspired (having features of
evolutionary development or organization increasingly similar to our own)
than the last. Physicists presently see no near-term limit to accelerating
computational capacity and efficiency trends, other than the Planck-scale
limit of fundamental universal structure itself.

As a result, the continued acceleration of local technological intelligence
is very likely to be the central driver and determinant of the modern era.
Hesitantly at first, and quickly now, these increasingly fast and
microscopic physical extensions of our humanity may soon learn (encode,
predict, and understand) both the physical and abstract nature of all the
slow and macroscopic systems in our local environment‹our biological selves

Some 20 to 140 years from now‹depending on which evolutionary theorist,
systems theorist, computer scientist, technology studies scholar, or
futurist you happen to agree with‹the ever-increasing rate technological
change in our local environment is expected to undergo a permanent and
irreversible developmental phase change, or technological "singularity,"
becoming human-surpassing and, from our perspective, effectively
instantaneous in the rate and significance of its self-improvement. It has
been postulated by some that events after this point must also be
"future-incomprehensible" to existing humanity, though we disagree.

In this fascinating process, technology and biology are becoming ever more
seamlessly interconnected and interdependent. As Brian Arthur describes,
technology is becoming organic, and nature is becoming technologic. Even our
minds and intentions, in a process that William Bainbridge calls
"personality capture," are becoming incrementally encoded into our
increasingly intelligent technological infrastructure, so that it may better
anticipate our needs, and serve us with increasing responsiveness and
effectiveness with each passing year. While the human animal is scarcely
different with each new generation, our "houses" become exponentially
smarter, as well as increasingly natural extensions of ourselves.

Ultimately, as few discussing these issues currently realize, "What is the
singularity?" is not even the most important question to ask, from the human
perspective. As we develop increasingly powerful types of human-surpassing
technological intelligence in coming decades, with each new generation more
seamlessly integrated with human actors, actively engaged in solving key
human problems, it will eventually become appropriate to ask not what, but
"Who is the singularity?"

Relatively soon in time, in a profound yet surprisingly subtle phase
transition for planetary intelligence, it will be us.

Institute for the Study of Accelerating Change

Our affiliated nonprofit organization, the Institute for the Study of
Accelerating Change (ISAC), is dedicated to analysis, informed speculation,
and promoting agendas for action in understanding and managing accelerating
change. We are an independent community of scholars, professionals and lay
futurists systematically exploring science, technology, business, global,
political, social, and personal dialogs in accelerating change. Please join
us in considering, critiquing, and prioritizing what may be the single most
important issue of the human era.

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